Whilst Transparency Solomon Islands sympathizes with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury Mr. MacKinnie Dentana on leakages of the ESP recipients list, he has only himself to blame. Had he been transparent in releasing the list publicly and in a timely manner, none of the officers in his committee and in the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet would have resorted to leaking it. His excuse of it requiring a software of its own makes no sense if it is just more than 16 projects. The explanations so far would suggest that there is something fishy going on and the circulating list seem to suggest so. Whatever list he now releases would not be credible unless it balances the amount allocated and released for the ESP, with the cost of successful projects that are approved.
Until such time as the Permanent Secretary releases the list of successful recipients, from what has been leaked [regardless of its authenticity] the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) is no doubt another self-serving scam by those responsible for facilitating, management and administration of the process of selection, approval and distribution of the funds to sectors and applicants. Of course, there will be applicants that will not be happy they missed out but that should not be a reason for not publishing the list. Publishing the list will enable the public ascertain whether or not there has been any undue influence exerted on the ESP Committee nor any manipulation by the committee members themselves on the approval and allocation of the ESP funds.
Given the many rumors surrounding the ESP it is no surprise that the Permanent Secretary (PS) for Ministry of Finance and Treasury announced that the list of names for the successful applicants for the ESP will not be published due to cost. Transparency Solomon Islands notes that the Executive Government during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to fund full-page advertisements and other notices on the paper costing taxpayers tens of thousands. It therefore has not valid excuse not to publish the much sought for list on mainstream media. The people of this country can no longer be lied to when they continue to witness public funds being squandered on a number of schemes and payments that are not of the nation’s common good such as the millions paid to Mustard Seed for Members of Parliament and their families health insurance scheme(?) a scheme that remains questionable in the absence of Executive Government responding to questions of legality and others of the scheme raised to Transparency Solomon Islands and TSI to government. Transparency Solomon Islands as do other tax-payers that if you can fund such schemes has this yet to be approved through the PEC process surely you can find funds to publish the list on mainstream media and keep them in business as well as our people employed.
It has now surfaced and alleged that most successful applicants contacted through their private mobile phones and directed to collect their ESP are cronies and close associates of either Members of Parliaments (MP) or those administering the ESP and Covid-19 responses. It is also alleged that some officers within the Ministry of Finance who form part of the team that work on the ESP also received projects, which equates conflict of interest and – a self-serving administration and management of the fund and should be held accountable for corrupt conduct as others have been in the past. It is also alleged that the bulk of the recipients of ESP were nearly all from the list of the voters of sitting Members of Parliament. This again is corruption and discrimination in its highest form against our very own people. Through election process the Member of parliament who wins is a representative of all in his constituency and not just those who may have voted for him.
We are now into November and the month of October has ended over the weekend with again another unacceptable response from the Permanent Secretary during the talk-back show. The list is still pending being made public. In the last talk-back show the Permanent Secretary promised that the software containing the list would be ready by the end of last month. Where is the list Permanent Secretary?
In the name of good governance, transparency, accountability, and the taxpayers of Solomon Islands the Permanent Secretary is urged to keep his words. It is not good enough that the recipients are contacted on phone when their applications are approved instead of publishing their names publicly prior to receiving their projects. This practice being non-transparent creates a breeding environment for corrupt conduct, practice, and self-serving scheme to thrive unabated. People need to know as do taxpayers the amount approved and that they do receive that amount for their projects. They also need to know which companies and individuals and groups are given the money and for what economic activities. Let it not be another shipping grant scheme where the recipients were not published, and where the funds were not used for the purpose for which they were approved. Already rumors abound with regard to vehicles being purchased with ESP and then hired back to the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
It has been the rural area that have kept the economy of this country going in times of crisis. The business sector is far too small to carry the country’s budget and whilst during the ethnic tension outside economy was still thriving, they want to know if their income generating activities is equally supported. They already ask how on earth we plan for this ESP to help the economy afloat during this time of the pandemic when distribution of projects only goes to the cronies who usually ate these funds a group that most know to have come to rely on MPs instead of raising pigs, copra, cocoa, fishing etc.?
Whilst people wait with a lot of hope for the fate of their applications, they are already shocked that there is no change in the attitude of public officials both politicians and public servants with regard to the leaked list. It is again a scheme for self-serving public officials who treat the country as their private business and continue to channel public funds within their networks and leaving behind the rest of the citizens.
Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) notes that the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) is doing good with regard to the repatriation scheme/plan therefore it calls on the Permanent Secretary of Finance and Treasury to address the issues surrounding ESP that badly portrays a negative image on the Executive Government with regard to COVID-19 funding responses.
Publish the list urgently for public viewing. From the data you made public it will be easy to put to rest or otherwise the current allegations of biasness, nepotism or corruption involved in the process of awarding ESP could also be extrapolated from provided data proving ESP has done good job
Transparency Solomon Islands reiterates that there are allegations already raised in social media that most approved to receive ESP must have connection to those in the ESP committee as is allegations of nepotism involve in the process of selection and awarding of ESP. TSI trusts that ESP committee practices transparency and accountability in the process of assessment, selection and awarding of ESP. If you have done your work professionally, the ESP committee should not be afraid of publishing the list of successful recipients for you have nothing to hide. The sooner you do that the more credible you will be contributing to building trust in our government.
ESP is the biggest talk of the day everywhere in Honiara and in the rural area. It is the issue that they are raising and looking for answers but having got none ended up in Transparency Solomon Islands office. Yes Transparency Solomon Islands is not the ESP Committee but is an organization that advocates for good governance, transparency and accountability. It assists witnesses and victims of corruption with free legal advice and the many complaints raised to its office indicates a lack of required information being made available to the people and the biggest is to do with their applications for the ESP. The government can quickly address these grievances in the first place by publishing the required list of successful recipients.